by Rudy Raya / @rudy_raya
It’s a dark day. Black clouds sit suspended in sky. October 31, Halloween night. A haunting ambiance hangs over the evening, but amidst the ghouls, goblins and impending cavities, the most frightening sight that could ever be sought is the absence of opening night, NBA basketball. Arenas around the country are empty, the lights are off and the stands are silent. The talking heads have nothing to talk about and somewhere Steven A. Smith sits crouched in a corner, babbling to himself in his own distraught delirium. Slowly a sickness has been brewing, lethargy so powerful and destructive that its aftereffects are incomprehensible. An epidemic of sheer boredom. Doctors are calling it The Lockoutbreak.
It is the year 2011, but much later in 2011. Probably three months or so from now. OK, so it’s the near future, but it’s the future nonetheless! It may be hard to imagine, but a world without basketball is an ugly one. The lockout was far more devastating than we could have ever imagined. Every professional basketball player has fled the country in search of economic safety. Million dollar mansions have turned to empty museums and every player’s entourage is left lost and dumbfounded like an abandoned flock of sheep. With no end in sight, the fans are forced to sit back and count the days, completely and utterly helpless. To some, the absence of NBA basketball may be miniscule, but for those who eat, drink, breathe and poop the stuff, it has been downright earth shattering.
People aren’t exactly boarding up their windows and doors, but when SportsCenter shows nothing but an endless reel of baseball stats and highlights, it can drive basketball fans to extreme lengths, even on Halloween. In Los Angeles, little linen-wrapped mummies go door to door, moaning, groaning, and raising their lifeless hands as high as possible, hoping for something, anything, to cheer for. Children stagger down the streets of South Beach like zombies, drooling at the mouth; hungry for basketball. Adorned in tattered LeBron jerseys, they cry out for “JAMES, JAMES, JAAAAAMES!” And the pumpkins, oh the pumpkins! The carved orange orbs are sprinkled all throughout the neighborhoods and sparkle as you pass like bursting flashbulbs. Each ghoulishly grinning gourd is a haunting, taunting reminder of what is missed so dearly.
It is important to note that the most popular Halloween costume this year has to be the “Dictator David Stern” ensemble from the newly inaugurated NBPAstore.com, which comes complete with little red horns, a pitchfork and a perfectly grayed toupee (hammer and sickle sold separately).
The void left by the NBA is vast. It would seem obvious enough since everyone gets that sort of empty feeling during those first few weeks following the NBA Finals, but until it’s really, really gone, you don’t understand how big of a part of your life it actually is. Sportswriters everywhere crowd around ancient AM radios, searching for scratchy transmissions of pre-season Turkish League basketball games. A close friend has even gone off the deep end and settled for watching soccer, completely in Spanish on Telemundo. “Bro, they dribble, pass and shoot the ball, too,” he says in his defense. As you can see, desperate times have called for even more desperate measures.
Maybe you are a connoisseur of sorts and can get your fix from dusting off your collection of AND 1 Mixtapes, but to most basketball junkies, there is no substitute for the NBA. No other sport has the capacity to display such pageantry, drama and sheer amazement like basketball can. Baseball is cool if you want to watch guys hit a ball with a stick and run in circles for five hours, and football is amazing if you are hung-over from Saturday night and want nothing more than an all-day snoozefest. But basketball is basketball.
It feels like it’s been years since anybody has even heard the bellowing bounce of a ball or the sweet squeak of sneakers on a hardwood floor. The players and owners met on several occasions, and though collectively, they tried bargaining, they could never come to an agreement on anything. At first it was easy enough to just point fingers at the bloodsucking owners, but could the players be the real monsters in this situation? They are the ones with all the leverage, after all. And what’s even scarier is that they know it. With the only remedy to the public’s devastation, and ultimately their boredom, the players can choose to drag this out for however long they want.
No matter the outcome, it’s quite evident that both sides are afflicted by the same sickness: greed. Everybody wants what’s fair, but mostly, they want what’s fair for them, not what’s necessarily fair for everyone involved. It’s hard to sympathize with either side since it’s basically a battle between millionaires and billionaires. The only ones who are really deserving of any sympathy are the fans. The players and the owners, they’re still rich; it’s the fans who are the only ones suffering. They are the ones being forced to put up with the politics of the game; politics they may not understand and don’t even have a say in. All they can do is wait.
So please take note, it doesn’t have to be like this! Nobody is bigger than the game, not the players and not the teams they play on. Plead with your players, beg your owners! Act quick before the professional basketball landscape is ravaged beyond repair. Do something before it’s too late…
Good luck and God bless.